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Home > Learn More > Tech > The History of Wikipedia

The History of Wikipedia

Jimmy Wales was running a website called Nupedia which requested encyclopedia articles from academics, then took the articles to fellow students for review. They were then posted for free on line. The progress of the website was painstakingly slow and required much labor. After a year the website had a mere twenty one articles. A Nupedia employee by the name of Larry Sanger was called in for assistance. Jimmy Wales had conceived a new idea for the application of this antiquated technology which would convert Nupedia to the now famous Wikipedia.

Wales is said to claim that he is the founder of Wikipedia, however it has been explained by Brian Bergstein of AP (the Associated Press) that Sanger was known as the co-founder as early as 2001. Wiki technology was already being used as a means for anyone to edit computer code. The idea was to take this technology and apply it to information so that its content would be open for editing and adding to by, well, everyone.

It was challenging for Wikipedia to cross reference the encyclopedia facts. Unlike source code, the level of accuracy was questionable. Despite this difficulty Wikipedia became a sensation. Wikipedia's popularity has grown dramatically since it originally went on line on January 15, 2001. It was by means of negative attention that Wikipedia began to get a grip on the minds of many. In an article on Wikipedia it was implied that John Siegenthaler had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy
by someone who had tampered with his biography on Wikipedia. John Siegenthaler wrote an editorial piece for USA Today in which, he called Wikipedia "a flawed and irresponsible research tool." Subsequently Wikipedia has made the web more democratic.

Since Wikepedia biographies are usually updated as soon as new information becomes available it has become a great source for information about notable people. This of course has led to attempts to include material of a promotional nature or for defamatory purposes. It has had its share of controversies. There are quite a few notables whose lives are directly affected by their biography on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the ninth most frequented site on the internet today. Yet many people do not attach a great deal of value on the Wikipedia website, feeling that because of its open editing ability it must be plagued with errors. However, Wikipedia has  been compared to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Nature took forty articles about science and math and checked them for their level of accuracy. Nature was able to locate four major errors in both the website and the Encyclopedia Britannica. Nature looked for factual errors, omissions and misleading statements. They found 123 in the Britannica and 162 on Wikipedia. This shows that Wikipedia is an accurate encyclopedia. Wikipedia is more than just an idea of everyone sharing data. An actual community has been formed around Wikipedia.

Wikipedians as they are known to be called spend extremely long hours on their articles. There are two hundred thousand people registered as users on Wikipedia but only thirty three hundred of those do seventy percent of the work. It is definite that this is a community. There are those who have contributed thousands and thousands of articles. Wikipedians vote on what makes it to the front page to be a featured article. To this day, Wikipedia enjoys growth with 5 million registered editor accounts. Wikipedia. The website continues to garner it's visibility in the press and is slowly gaining traction as a tertiary source for serious content as well as current events.

 
 
 
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